New on the book shelf: Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 – Kankakee Daily Journal

Art creates art in new Johnson mystery

In Next to Last Stand, the 16th book in Craig Johnsons popular mystery series, Absaroka County Sheriff Walt Longmire is feeling his age. Hes not sure he even wants to stand for reelection. However, a good mystery always can get the veteran lawmans heart pumping again.

He finds one when the director of the Wyoming Home for Soldiers and Sailors calls to inform him his pal, Charlie Lee Stillwater, has passed away and he needs to examine what was found in the old mans room. Arriving there, Longmire sees stacks of papers and file folders, a huge hoard of books about art, a scrap of canvass that appears to be a copy (or perhaps an actual piece) of a famous painting and a box containing $1 million in $100 bills.

It appears Charlie died of natural causes, but where did the long-penniless old soldier get $1 million in cash? When did he develop an apparent obsession with art? And is that scrap of canvass a clue or a red herring?

Johnson builds his story around a real work of art: Custers Last Fight, a not particularly good and historically inaccurate painting of the battle of Little Big Horn that was destroyed in a fire in 1946 at the U.S. Armys 7th Cavalry Headquarters in Fort Bliss, Texas. However, because millions of copies were distributed by Anheuser-Busch, it is one of the most well-known art works in American history. The original would be worth millions.

Johnson excels at introducing his series characters to new readers without boring longtime fans with details they already know.

Bruce DeSilva, The Associated Press

2 love affairs fuel Picoult offering

Jodi Picoults The Book of Two Ways follows Dawn Edelstein, a death doula with a physicist husband and a teenage daughter. Dawns job is to help terminally ill patients and their loved ones transition from life to death.

But before she was a death doula, she was a graduate student living in Egypt, studying archeology and in love with a fellow graduate student named Wyatt.

When Dawn is in a plane crash, she finds not the life she currently lives flashing before her eyes but rather the life she once had with Wyatt 15 years earlier.

After miraculously surviving the crash, Dawn must consider whether to return home to her family or travel to Egypt, find Wyatt and discover the life that could have been and maybe still could be.

What unfolds are two side-by-side stories of where each of Dawns choices lead her.

The Book of Two Ways is a thrilling adventure, but the many timelines woven through the novel also can be a bit difficult to follow. With Picoults stories, there always is something new to learn, and The Book of Two Ways is no exception. The characters interests in ancient Egypt, quantum physics, death and more bring a certain dynamism to the story but, at times, also can get a bit dense.

Nevertheless, Picoult certainly has crafted a fun and interesting read, one that will lead readers to both learn a lot and also ask themselves key questions about how to create happy lives for themselves during the short time we have on earth.

By Molly Sprayregen, The Associated Press

Family road trip goes from bad to worse

From the beginning of the highly entertaining He Started It, Beth Morgan makes it clear why she should not, cannot, be your heroine. Her flaws and behavior wont allow her to be considered a heroine. But she does have a story to tell, she says, and it is a doozy.

The witty, self-deprecating and observant Beth is locked in a mind-numbing, cross-country road trip with her estranged brother, Eddie, and sister, Portia, as well as her husband, Felix, and her new sister-in-law, Krista. This is not a pleasant family vacation, but one forced on them. Their controlling grandfathers will demands they recreate a trip they took 20 years before with him when they were children. This time, its to bring his ashes to California. If they succeed without deviating from the original trip they will share their grandfathers fortune.

That original trip had been meant to give their parents a chance to mend their marriage. Instead, it tore apart their family as each child witnessed just how angry, nasty and domineering their grandfather was. This new trip might be even worse, as decades of grudges, betrayals and lies rise to the surface. Then, there is that black pickup that seems to be following them, the frequent flat tires, the constant sniping.

Downings breezy style gives way to a menacing undercurrent that works well in He Started It, a technique she utilized in her debut, the Edgar-nominated My Lovely Wife. A stunningly surprising ending adds the finishing touch to He Started It, a melding of domestic drama with psychological thriller.

Oline H. Cogdill, Sun Sentinel

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New on the book shelf: Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 - Kankakee Daily Journal

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